‘Cutting out animal protein may be seen as a way of tackling the climate crisis, showing compassion for nature, and boosting one’s own nutrient intake.’
According to Mintel’s new research, which was carried among 2,000 British internet users aged +16 between 23rd April – 7th May, over one in 10 Brits (12%) agreed the COVID-19 pandemic made them more inclined towards a plant-based diet.
The pandemic has had a greater impact on younger Britons’ eating habits, with a quarter (25%) of young British millennials (aged 21-30) saying they found going vegan more appealing, along with almost a quarter (22 percent) of Londoners.
Mintel attributed the shifting preferences to a desire to be more compassionate and a greater awareness of the health benefits of eating more fruit and vegetables.
The research highlighted that more than half of Brits (51%) believed that plant/botanical ingredients such as herbs, spices possessed medicinal properties.
Almost two in five (37%) Brits said the COVID-19 outbreak pivoted them to including immune boosting foods to their diet, with two thirds (66%) saying consuming vitamin C helped maintain an invigorated immune system.
Alex Beckett, Mintel’s Food & Drink associate director said: “People want the world to change for the better right now and they are searching for ways to show compassion.
“For consumers struggling to know how to make a positive difference, cutting out animal protein may be seen as a way of tackling the climate crisis, showing compassion for nature, and boosting their own nutrient intake.”
Of the people surveyed , nearly a quarter (23%) said they have been eating more fruit and vegetables since the beginning of the outbreak, with Generation Z (aged 20 and under) (31%) and Millennials (21-40) (27%) being most inclined to keeping their fridges well-stocked with healthy food items.
“Even before the spread of COVID-19, we were seeing a growing interest in plant-based food and drink across global markets. It may well be that the pandemic is accelerating this trend. For example, in China, we’ve seen skyrocketing sales of the new plant-based meat options in KFC and Pizza Hut,” added Beckett.
Plant-based market growth
Mintel’s UK report is a reflection of the changing food landscape globally in wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
According to data compiled by The Plant Based Foods Association (PBFA), and retail analytics firm SPINS, sales of plant-based meats, cheeses, tempeh, and tofu surpassed total food sales in the US in the 16 weeks leading up to April 19.
Compared with the same period in 2019, vegan food sales shot up a staggering 90 percent.
While plant-based meat sales were 50 percent higher during the peak-panic buying frenzy time ( March 8 to March 29) compared to animal-based meat sales, the momentum did not drop with plant-based meat sales growing at a rate of 61 percent in the following four weeks, although animal-based meat sales declined.
“This new data shows that consumers are turning to plant-based food options now more than ever. Even after the highest panic-buying period, plant-based foods growth remains strong, proving that this industry has staying power,” said Julie Emmett, senior director of retail partnerships at PBFA, in a statement.
Tony Olson, the CEO of SPINS added in a statement: “Since the beginning of the pandemic, there has been a continued shift in consumer purchasing toward natural and organic products that enhance health and immunity.
“Our data shows the plant-based meat boom of last year continues and, as reports of animal-based meat shortages increase, we can expect plant-based meat to gain even more traction.”
Even, KFC China’s trial of its plant-based chicken nuggets at selected locations saw pre-sale coupons for the first day sold out within one hour of its launch in Shanghai and a total of 7,000 coupons were purchased in the shopping window from April 28 to April 30.
“The test of KFC’s Plant-Based Chicken Nuggets caters to the growing market in China for delicious alternative meat options on the go,” said Joey Wat, CEO of Yum China.
According to Euromonitor, plant-based meat sales in China increased from $7.2 billion in 2014 to $9.7 billion in 2018 and the market is projected to be worth $11.9 billion by 2023.
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